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Leather Goods – A Look into The Many Types and Benefits

You’ve heard of leather material and may even have a leather car interior or leather furniture in your house.  But what other applications for leather are there?  I will discuss different types of leather goods to help you decide which ones are right for you.

Leather goods are products made from tanned animal hides or other natural or synthetic materials.  Various goods can be made with leather, from clothing and accessories to furniture and car interiors.  Quality and cost can differ dramatically depending on the leather type and brand name.

Are you looking to expand your leather collection?  Or maybe you’re looking for the perfect present for a friend or loved one who already has everything?  Let’s check out some pros and cons of various leather goods and the qualities and characteristics that make them unique.

What are Leather Goods?

Leather goods are articles, clothing, accessories, and other products made with animal hides or other natural or synthetic materials.  These can be consumer products created with specially treated animal skins like pigs, cows, sheep, and more.  Leather goods vary in size and quality, from everyday wallets and purses to luxury furniture.

Various Leather Goods - Leather Goods - Liberty Leather Goods
Various Leather Goods

History of Leather Goods

Leather goods have been around for over 7,000 years, and manufacturing processes have improved over time.  The use of leather dates back to the Ice Age when used for body and foot protection, but it was a primitive process that did not preserve the leather at the time.  The history of preserved leather began as early as 5,000 BC with the creation of clothing, footwear, armor, waterbags, and carpets. 

The skins of animals were sun-dried, softened through pounding in fats, then preserved through the application of salt and smoke.  Vegetable tanning came about in Egypt in 400 BC, with Arabs in the Middle Ages improving the process to create high-quality leathers.  It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that machines were created to simplify and automate the leather-making process. 

According to researcher Abadi of the Ethiopian Tanners Association, the leather industry has grown rapidly but has struggled with problems including livestock management, the raw material of low quality, and processing equipment, per his article in 2000.  Over time, however, the processes have been modernized to be more efficient and focused on environmental effects. 

The durability of leather goods depends on the leather quality, the process for tanning and stitching, and the maintenance and care of these goods.

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The tanning process has also improved to decrease the pollution that was once a huge problem near large bodies of water, and in the air, and researchers Hashmi et al. from the University of Gujrat helped lead the way for implementing and enforcing waste treatment, sanitation policies, and conservation of natural resources.

Types/Styles of Leather Goods

There are various types and styles of leather goods, including:

  1. Full grain or top grain leather
  2. Embossed grain leather
  3. Bonded or genuine leather
  4. Suede leather
  5. Synthetic or faux leather

The durability of leather goods depends on the leather quality, the process for tanning and stitching, and the maintenance and care of these goods.

Pros and Cons of Using Leather Goods

Pros of Leather Goods

Leather goods are extremely durable, and high-quality leather will age well.  It’s also fairly straightforward to repair leather products should a tear or puncture occur.  Leather goods are very versatile and can be used in many applications.  As clothing and accessories, leather is very comfortable and will keep you warm.  Leather and its byproducts can be recycled, decreasing environmental effects. 

Cons of Leather Goods

Although genuine leather is tanned and treated before being processed into consumer goods, it can be sensitive to temperature fluctuations and direct sunlight.  Leather goods can start a bit stiff, but the material will relax and become more flexible over time.  Leather can also be very pricey, but the durability and nature of the material usually make up for this.

Characteristics of Leather Goods

Material

Leather goods are made from a type of leather material, whether it’s genuine leather or faux leather.  The material is designed and processed to be durable, beautiful, and resistant to moisture and damage.

Sizes

Leather goods sizes vary when we consider the different types available.  From keychains to couches, there are many sizes of leather goods.  Some goods will be entirely leather (i.e. a keychain), while others are only partial leather (i.e. couches).

Variations

There are many variations of leather goods, from large to small.  Areas of variation include quality, tanning process, material, stitching, and more.  Variations can include:

  1. Clothing
  2. Accessories
  3. Household
  4. Sports
  5. Transport 
  6. Religious
  7. Pet accessories
Brown Leather Chairs - Leather Goods - Liberty Leather Goods
Brown Leather Chairs

How Leather Goods Are Made

So how are leather goods made?  For genuine leather, it starts with tanning and processing the animal hide to be durable, beautiful, and flexible.  This process preserves the material, so it lasts.  Tanning is completed through vegetable tanning agents or chromium salts.  The leather hides are then trimmed and shaved for uniformity, and shavings are collected for bonded leather and small leather goods. 

After retanning, hides are dried out completely, mechanically softened, and dyed in different colors.  The hides are then milled and stretched, cleared of blemishes, and ironed to create a sheen at high temperatures.  After final inspection, the hides are rolled and shipped to leather craft companies to make leather goods.

Cost of Leather Goods

The cost of leather goods depends mainly upon the type of leather used.  Genuine leather is the most expensive per square foot, while faux leather tends to be the cheapest.  The smaller the leather goods, the less they tend to cost.  Let’s look at a few examples:

A brand-new, basic genuine leather purse can range from $30–$4,000, depending on size, type of hide, and brand name.  A leather wallet can range from $7–$1,250, again depending on the hide and brand name.

New genuine leather boots can cost anywhere between $12–$2,000.  Like purses and wallets, this is due to the type of hide, brand name, and just how fancy those boots are.

Tips for Choosing Leather Goods 

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LeatherCoach™

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High-quality leather certainly doesn’t come cheap, so you want to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.  So how do you know which to pick?  Here are some tips for choosing leather goods:

  1.  Genuine leather is the best leather quality.
  2.  Look at colors and finishes.  A uniform color and finish is best.
  3.  Consider different textures for different goods — softer for wearing and sitting, firmer for support (belts and shoes) and high-use items (wallets).

Examples of Leather Goods

So, what kinds of leather goods are available?  Here are just a few examples:

  1. Wallets
  2. Handbags
  3. Tote bags
  4. Saddles
  5. Bridles
  6. Shoes
  7. Clothing
  8. Vehicle interiors
  9. Book covers
  10. Rugs
  11. Couches
  12. Chairs

Popular Brands/Makers of  Leather Goods 

Who are the top brands of leather makers, and what types of products do they make?

  1. Harley Davidson is the most popular brand for leather in the U.S.  They’re known for their motorcycles but also leather goods.  Some of their best leather goods include saddle bags, leather jackets, and messenger bags.
  2. Timberland is another popular U.S. leather brand.  You probably know them for their outdoor and camping accessories, but they make many leather products, including belts, boots, and jackets.
  3. Ralph Lauren is a well-known designer brand in the U.S. known for luxury clothing, footwear, and fragrances.  They’re also popular for leather wallets, jackets, belts, and more.

Durability and good looks of leather goods depend highly upon proper maintenance.

My Research on Favorite Leather Goods

I asked several friends and family members what their favorite leather goods are.  Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about the leather goods that people like the most.

Leather GoodTimes Selected
Purse13%
Shoes20%
Messenger bag7%
Tote13%
Jacket27%
Keychain13%
Vest7%
Favorite Leather Goods

Leather Goods Care and Maintenance

How to Clean Leather Goods

There are several ways to clean leather goods, from soap and water to leather cleaners.  Never use too much water when cleaning leather goods to prevent water stains and mold from forming.  Use mild soaps or cleaners, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any leather cleaning products you use — test new products in an inconspicuous spot to ensure colorfastness.

How to Maintain Leather Goods

Durability and good looks of leather goods depend highly upon proper maintenance.  You can rely on leather goods for a lifetime or more if leather goods are cleaned and conditioned appropriately. 

Protect leather from direct sunlight, moisture, and anything that can stain.  Should any spills or stains occur, clean them up immediately for the best results — condition after washing and at least every few months.

How to Store Leather Goods

Leather goods need to be stored properly to maintain their looks and durability.  Use a cover to protect from direct sunlight and dust.  Store leather goods in a dry, temperate zone that does not experience any temperature shifts, which can lead to leather drying out and cracking.  Take lether goods out of storage once or twice annually to dust, clean, and condition.

Check out this helpful video for a quick introduction to the world of leather goods and to learn how to identify the different types of leather goods and where you can find them.

Related Insights

Which leather brands are the best?

The best consumer-rated leather brands include Coach, Gucci, Burberry, and Saddleback Leather Co.

Where are most leather goods made?

China is where most leather goods are made, with Italy close in second.

Which country has the best leather quality?

Italy produces the highest quality leather in the world by skilled artisans whose craftsmanship simply cannot be matched.

What is the most expensive leather?

The most costly leather is shell cordovan, which comes from a part of a horse’s backside.  It is considered exotic because horses are not usually raised for leather.

What is the cheapest leather?

The cheapest leather is a bonded leather, which is created from leftover scraps of genuine and faux (fake) leather.

What is the softest leather?

The softest leather is lambskin.

Final Thoughts

There are so many different leather goods to choose from!  Even if you’re shopping for someone picky, there’s almost always a leather good someone is likely to appreciate.  High-quality, durable leather goods are great presents with great uses that can last a lifetime.  Which leather goods will you choose this gifting season?

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